Meditations on Missoula

The composer, Dr. Emilie LeBel, in her natural habitat at the University of Montana.

Last week I spent a couple of wonderful days at the University of Montana in Missoula at the invitation of Emilie LeBel, who helms the School of Music’s composition program. While there I had the opportunity to speak to composition and woodwind students about my experience working with composers, commissioning new music, and life in general as a freelance musician. I also had the opportunity to present an evening performance as part of the Faculty Guest Artist Series — a concert that included LeBel’s own Hiraeth for solo flute, Yota Kobayashi‘s Tensho for flute and tape, and Kaija Saariaho‘s NoaNoa for flute and electronics — a piece I haven’t played in over a decade! (And boy, that Max patch sure has changed in the meantime.) Our performance at the UM Recital Hall was recorded and can be heard below:

LeBel’s Hiraeth is an intensely beautiful work that explores a more subtle side of microtonality and multiphonic writing. The title is Welsh: Hiraeth has no direct English translation, but means something along the lines of “homesickness tinged with grief, knowing one can never return.” LeBel’s Hiraeth — like so much of her music — is lyrical, introspective, and bittersweet. You can hear the live performance below:

LeBel’s ethereal melodies were floating through my head the entire day after our concert and inspired me to take a few pictures of Missoula’s Clark Fork River. The river was absolutely stunning in February, with its drifting ice patches evoking some alien arctic landscape:

Please note that I restrained myself from photoshopping Imperial Walkers and fleeing rebel troops into the above photos. (Actually, that’s a bald-faced lie; I have no frigging idea how to photoshop anything. It’s a minor miracle that I can post photos at all.)

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